14 Best Workout Shoes for Women—for Every Type of Workout
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Learn the best workout shoes for women, based on your activity of choice. Podiatrists and fitness experts vetted these picks and offer tips for finding a comfortable pair.
Good workout shoes are essential gear
Finding a good pair of workout shoes can be as tough as discovering a pair of jeans that fit. It takes some trial and error to land on an option that’s comfortable and works well for your exercise of choice. But it is worth the effort and investment to buy workout-specific shoes, especially if you’re a dedicated athlete. Here’s what podiatrists and fitness experts want you to know about the best workout shoes for women.
(Plus, here are the Peloton-compatible shoes you can buy on Amazon.)
Why you need different shoes for different workouts
Workout-specific footwear is key because different types of activity require different types of support and cushioning to prevent injury, explains Bruce Pinker, DPM, a podiatrist in practice in Westchester and Rockland, New York. Plus, wearing the proper footwear can help enhance your movement during an activity, too. (This is what your workout routine says about you.)
“For example, basketball consists of lots of short, quick moves, with jumping and brief runs mixed in,” Dr. Pinker says. “Basketball footwear is designed to provide cushioning for jumping, with ankle support added to help prevent ankle sprains.”
Tennis footwear, on the other hand, is designed to allow the player to carry out lateral (side-to-side) moves, as well as forward and backward movements, according to Dr. Pinker.
Podiatrist Robert Eckles, DPM, dean of graduate medical education at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine says that if a person is genuinely invested and dedicated to their sport, they owe it to themselves to go for a specific purpose-built shoe.
That’ll cost more, Dr. Eckles admits. But workout-specific shoes help performance and can lower the risk of injuries, which may save you money on health care in the long run. (Here are the best golf shoes.)
Important workout shoe criteria
Finding the best shoes for your workout always comes down to fit, according to Dr. Pinker and Dr. Eckles. When shopping, pay attention to all areas of the shoe: outsole, heel, toe box, midsole, width, and length.
Look for a snug (but not tight) width and a length that allows for about 3/8 of an inch between the end of your big toe and the front of the shoe.
“There should be adequate cushioning in the midsole, and the toe box should be composed of a material that protects and also allows the exchange of air,” Dr. Pinker says. Often midsoles are made from the soft foam ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), while the top of the toe area uses a mesh-like material.
In the heel region, aim for a snug fit—loose-fitting heels can lead to heel blisters. The outsole (the part of the shoe that hits the ground) should have treads designed specifically for your intended activity.
Dr. Eckles recommends buying brands that fit your specific feet. So while you may like the look of a brand’s running shoes, the line might not include any styles that comfortably fit your wide feet. Although it’s harder to shop leisurely for shoes during the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s worth some trial and error to find the brands that produce the best shoes for your feet and workout of choice.
Workout shoes for women
What separates women’s workout shoes from men’s? Aside from size and color selection, the biggest difference is in weight. Women’s footwear is often lighter than men’s, with somewhat less support. That’s because men typically weigh more and require added materials.
Here are the best women’s workout shoes, based on some top ways to break a sweat. (And here are the best slip-on sneakers for women.)
If you’re an avid runner, pick a shoe that will support your foot while you pound the pavement. It’s easy to know where to start: The type is conveniently called “running shoes.”
“It is possible to run in a cross-trainer or HIIT [high-intensity interval training] shoe, but not for long distances,” says Dr. Pinker. “It is best to wear a running shoe if running more than half of a mile, as the cushioning and support in a running shoe is preferred.”
Treadmill running is uniform, unlike road or trail running. Dr. Eckles says almost every running shoe, except those designed for trail running, are suitable for both treadmill and non-treadmill runs. “It’s a smooth surface, and treadmills are themselves very shock-absorbing,” he says. “They are built with some resilience in them.”
One of the most common running mistakes you can make is wearing your running shoes when taking a walk or doing errands. Remember: Running shoes are specifically built with running in mind, not to support the sort of movement your foot will be doing during a walk or while zipping around the grocery store.
Dr. Pinker is a fan of running sneakers from New Balance, Asics, Brooks, and Saucony because of their construction and the fact that they offer several different widths (ideal for people with wide feet or foot issues like bunions).
Asics Women’s Gel-Excite 4 Running Shoe
$40-$110 (depending on size)
This pair from Asics is made with a cushioning gel that absorbs sock and comes in 14 different colors. A testament to its comfort: It has more than 8,500 reviews and a 4.6 star rating on Amazon.
Brooks Ghost 13
$115-$300 (depending on size)
Although its price can be steep, the Brooks Ghost 13 is another good running shoe for women. It checks off lots of boxes with its breathable mesh material, soft cushioning, and shock-absorbing outsole.
Weight-lifting or powerlifting shoes
Specific types of shoes offer stability during weight lifting. These are often lightweight, and some feature fabric that supports and fortifies the ankles, according to Dr. Pinker.
Your running shoes probably aren’t the best option for weight lifting, though this does depend on the type of weight lifting you do. “If you are sitting at a gym machine, it won’t matter,” Dr. Eckles says. “But if you call yourself a weight lifter or bodybuilder and you’re really lifting weights, then running shoes don’t have the medial to lateral stability that you really need to have.”
People who lift and perform barbell squats and deadlifts, for example, will benefit from a shoe that’s closer to the ground and doesn’t have ample “squish.”
Exercise physiologist Jim White recommends a shoe with a thin heel, wide base, and good ankle support for lifting. “The wide base allows for sure grip and room for your toes to spread,” he says. “And finding a shoe with ankle support is critical to avoid straining the joint on your heavy lift.”
(Here are the best slippers for your feet.)
Adidas Adipower Weightlifting II
Heavy weight lifters will love the raised heel that enhances stability in these Adidas Adipower Weightlifting II shoes. In fact, White says that if you have trouble getting into a deep squat, a thicker heel can help you achieve full range of motion without putting strain on your ankle. The lace and strap combination on this shoe works together to lock down your midfoot so there’s no slipping or sliding within the shoe.
Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Low Top
Yes, you read that correctly. One of the best workout shoes for women who lift weights or strength train is Converse’s classic Chuck Taylors All Stars. These are a good option for serious weight lifters or powerlifters who are pumping iron. White calls them the classic heavy lifting shoe. “These have a minimally cushioned heel and wide toe box,” White says. While the low-top version offers mobility, the high-top version is also a good option because, as White notes, it provides great ankle support.
“These shoes are a little heavy, however, so they’re best for purely weight training workouts, rather than HIIT or cardio,” he says. These shoes are also great for strength-training beginners, who might be looking to spend under $100 on workout shoes.
Cardio and weight-lifting shoes
If you enjoy hitting both a cardio and weightlifting workout in one session (and don’t want to swap shoes midway through), Dr. Eckles recommends splitting the difference with a cross-training shoe. “They have many of the positive features of a running shoe, they are well cushioned, and they tend to be flexible, but they have the heel cup and midsole stability of the dedicated weight lifting shoe, to a point,” he says.
For a blended workout, White looks for a shoe with a wide toe box, so the feet have room to spread, and a medium cushioned heel. The combination ensures you have cushioning for cardio but aren’t tipping forward on your lifts.
Nike Women’s Metcon 5 Training Shoe
$114-$230 (depending on size)
The foam in Nike’s Metcon 5 Training Shoes is firmer under the heel for a secure feel and softer in the forefoot to cushion high-impact moves. They have a lightweight feel and a removable insert that helps improve stability for exercises like squats.
Nobull Women’s Training Shoes
These Nobull Women’s Training shoes have a simple but effective look and design. Theirs is a multi-use design with lightweight, breathable, and flexible material. White is a fan of Nobull’s Training Shoes. “These shoes have a little extra padding but still provide a flat surface for lifting, they have good ankle support, but they’re significantly lighter than the Chucks, making them perfect for both lifting and cardio,” he says.
For high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, Dr. Pinker recommends footwear that is lightweight and breathable, with cushioning and ankle support for lateral movements. Like weight-lifting shoes, those use for HIIT classes should have a stable base for support. But because HIIT often involves explosive vertical movements, you also need a thick, supportive heel to cushion your landing, White adds. (Here’s an at-home HIIT workout to try.)
The best workout shoes for women who enjoy HIIT, says Dr. Pinker, come from brands such as Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Puma, and New Balance, all of which have several footwear models that could be beneficial for this type of workout.
Reebok HIIT Shoes
The breathable, lightweight mesh upper from these Reebok HIIT shoes keeps feet cool, while the pillow around the collar provides a locked-in fit. You won’t slip and slide on gym floors since the flexible outsole provides a dependable grip.
Puma Women’s Zone Xt Cross Trainer
$40-$120 (depending on size)
The Puma Women’s Zone Xt Cross Trainers are an affordable option for anyone who enjoys HIIT workouts. This lightweight, breathable training shoe offers both cushioning for cardio and a dense foam under the heel for stability while lifting weights. Customers seem to love them—they have 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
Footwear for CrossFit—a high-intensity fitness regimen that focuses on strength and conditioning—is typically lightweight and breathable with adequate cushioning and support similar to that of a cross-training shoe, Dr. Pinker says.
Reebok Women’s CrossFit Nano 8.0 Flexweave Cross Trainer
$62-$200 (depending on size)
These CrossFit Nano 8.0 sneakers from Reebok are flat enough for heavy lifts and still have enough arch support for other CrossFit moves. The low-cut design helps with ankle mobility, too. Another reason to try them on for size: They come in 21 different colors and have 4.6 out of five stars on Amazon.
Inov-8 F-Lite G 300
$83-$150 (depending on size)
These shoes from Inov-8 provide great grip for things like rope climbs and box jumps, thanks to the rubber outsole. Plus, the shoe tongue has a sock-liner-like feel. The shoe is snug yet comfortable, so you could get away without wearing laces.
Yes, there are benefits to buying cycling-specific shoes for your at-home exercise bike. In fact, doing so may help prevent cycling-related knee pain and boost your motivation. The clip-in spinning shoes prevent your foot from slipping on the petals and help distribute your weight evenly. (Here are the other best spin shoes for indoor cycling.)
Note that cycling shoes don’t always come with cleats, which connect the bottom of the shoe to the pedal. You can purchase them separately for as little as $8.
Shimano SH-IC500 Cycling Shoes
Good ventilation is key for indoor bike shoes, and these Shimano SH-IC500 feature a mesh upper for ventilation. Plus, a Boa dial helps you tighten the shoe so that it won’t loosen mid-ride.
Nike SuperRep Cycle
Nike does it again with these new workout shoes specifically created for indoor cyclers. They have adjustable hook and loop straps that make adjusting and putting them on easy. There is also mesh fabric for airflow to prevent overheating.
Yes, walking can absolutely be great exercise. Not only is it easy to incorporate in your regular exercise routine, but it’s low impact, making it a good option for most people, especially those with joint pain.
Podiatrists recommend choosing walking shoes based on stability, arch support, and breathability. They also recommend looking for walking shoes with a wide toe box and flex point (the point at which it bends while walking).
New Balance 1165v1 Fresh Foam
$30-$100 (depending on size)
If you’re looking for a lightweight walking shoe, the New Balance 1165v1 Fresh Foam is a good bet. These walking sneakers not only have lightweight foam cushioning but also use a lightweight mesh material that keeps feet cool.
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 20
$80-$320 (depending on size)
This Brooks shoe is built with technology that adapts to your unique foot and stride. People with neutral or low arches will appreciate this shoe for walking workouts because it provides great stability and support.
The bottom line
People who spend lots of time focusing on certain workouts should consider investing in the best workout shoes for that particular activity. Not only does this provide support for your feet, but it also could make you a better athlete. Now that you know the best workout shoes for women, check out the shoe mistakes you’re making that hurt your feet.